One of the leading student groups at Gary Middle College (GMC) is a chapter of SAAB, a national network of Student African American Brotherhoods. Founded in 1990, the SAAB community now includes over 200 chapters at middle and high schools, colleges, and universities in 39 states. SAAB seeks to provide social, cultural, and spiritual enrichment for its Brothers, creating a positive atmosphere of mutual care and mentorship between peers. At GMC, weekly SAAB meetings are led by Mr. Terrence McCullough, Academic Dean of GMC. The students and Mr. McCullough convene to support and challenge each other, and discuss goals in the group’s agenda.
Gary Middle College is an alternative high school, which welcomes students of all ages to get a second chance at earning their high school diploma – completely free of charge. Students work independently on their degree, using an online program called Odyssey to watch webinars, complete assignments, and pass tests to move through an individualized high school curriculum, which includes those credits they need to leave the school with diploma in hand. Teachers and instructional aides are available for help while class time is in session, offered from 8am-12pm, 12pm-4pm, and 4pm-8pm. Students must attend at least one session every day.
SAAB members at GMC talk casually and with ease at their weekly meetings. To start off, Mr. McCullough announces the progress achieved that week by each group member on their way to earning a high school diploma. GMC students are required to take on at least five assignments every day school is in session, but SAAB members are challenged to take on twice as much work, and complete ten assignments. Several current members of SAAB have already worked through the credits they need to walk with the GMC Graduating Class of Spring 2015, and are now studying hard to pass their ECAs. In addition to stating the weekly progress of each SAAB member, Mr. McCullough also shares out loud the average grade scores earned by each member. After each name and their score are announced, SAAB members respond with applause and encouragement. Each member’s class attendance per semester is shared with the group by Mr. McCullough, too. Most members have exemplary records, and have missed only one or two days of class.
Next on the agenda: the SAAB chapter at GMC is currently working to raise enough money for the group to travel to Dearborn, MI and attend the annual SAAB National Conference, held from Friday, March 27 – Saturday, March 28. Initiatives to raise sufficient funds include a Krispy Kreme donut sale, where each SAAB member endeavors to sell 50 boxes of a dozen donuts, and shared custody of a 5 and Under Student Store, where SAAB members alternate shifts at a snack stand selling candy and other treats between GMC class sessions.
This year’s Conference will welcome numerous speakers to the stage, including Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, SAAB Founder and CEO, Dr. Ivory Toldson, Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Mr. Dondre Whitfield, actor and comedian of The Cosby Show fame. To provide SAAB members ample opportunities to connect and collaborate, the Conference offers a multitude group discussions and workshops. Nathan, the President of GMC’s SAAB chapter, is currently working on a 5-minute speech he will present in front of a room filled with the thousand or more attendees of the Conference. The group plans to show up as a united front, unified and dignified in black suits the first day, and coordinated polo shirts bearing the GMC logo on the second. So far, they’re almost all in accordance with ties the hue of sky blue the first day, accompanied by black vests and black shoes, and dark purple shirts the following day, featuring white lettering. Expect to-the-minute updates in the future on how to identify the GMC SAAB chapter at the National Conference!